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Keno revenue falling short for kindergarten funding

Rejection of the game in communities cut profits


Monitor staff

When Gov. Chris Sununu unveils his budget proposal on Thursday, one program might get singled out for praise: “keno-garten.”

The initiative, passed in 2017, authorized the tabletop game keno to be approved by towns and cities; the revenue would provide funding for school districts with full-day kindergarten programs.

But five months away from New Hampshire’s second year of “kenogarten” funding, revenues from the game are falling below expectations.

The game pulled in $8.3 million in sales in its first few months – Fiscal Year 2018 – and is projected to garner just under $15 million in Fiscal Year 2019, which ends in June, according to figures provided by the Lottery Commission on Monday.

But after expenses and prize payouts, those numbers diminish to $1.5 million of net profits in its first year, and $2.3 million in its second, according to the commission. That’s the money that ultimately makes it into the state coffers for kindergarten.

Those profits — exacerbated by several rejections of keno in major cities and towns — are far below the estimated $11 million needed to provide the minimum additional adequacy under the keno bill. The shortfalls mean the state will be picking up the tab for the rest, and that school districts are unlikely to get more than the minimum.

In an email last Friday to school superintendents, the Department of Education instructed school districts to budget for the minimum additional amount provided by the law — $1,100 per full-day kindergarten student.

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